Ancho Apple Butter

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I couldn’t help myself. it’s fall and the apples are fallin’ everywhere around here.

This tree was here long before i even knew what a berkshire hill was. since i’ve been here it’s had good years and bad. some years nary an apple she grows, and others like this one, they swing like baubles sassy in the breeze, wooing me from the window at which i work each day.

In good years i eat them all summer; the first tiny pucker worthy emeralds, the blushing end of summer cherubs. and finally in october when there is nothing left but those jovial fatties sunning themselves way up high, i wait.

eventually, flushed and sugar drunk, they fall to the ground. at last unable to bear their own weight. when they finally drop and roll they let out a boisterous sound of glee. most times a solitary cry, and sometimes a few small apple voices in unison shouting; weeeeeeeee! inaudible, but i know they do it.

gathering them up before the deer, rabbits, chipmunk, squirrels, wild turkeys, a myriad of more graceful and colorful feathered friends, neighbor’s dogs, fox, and this summer, a bobcat even (!) get to them is the challenge. let alone the smaller critters, fiercer than tasmanian devils when it comes to eating apples it would seem. basically…

i gotta be quick.

my eagle ears and mad dashes from behind the work window paid off this october because i was able to gather enough butter inducing fruit to make this:

Ancho apple butter

5 pounds apples – stemmed & quartered, skin & seeds intact
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 & 2/3 to 2 cups raw cane sugar
9 allspice berries
1 to 2 teaspoons ground ancho chiles
1/2 pint or pint mason jars
food mill

yield: approximately 4 & 1/2 pints

1. place apple quarters and 2 cups cold water in a non-reactive (stainless or enameled iron) stock pot and bring to the boil. reduce to a simmer and cook until apples are soft – about 20 minutes.

2. as apples are cooking prepare canning pot and jars for hot water bath processing. jars should be warmed but no need to sterilize.

3. when apples are soft all the way through take off the heat and pass them through a food mill. discard the skins & seeds and return the apple flesh to pot. add sugar, ground ancho, wine vinegar, and whole allspice. place the allspice in a cloth tea bag, metal tea ball, or cheesecloth so that it is easy to fish out later.

4. cook on medium, stirring regularly until butter thick – about 30 minutes. as it thickens you will have to stir more often to prevent sticking. you’ll know it’s done when you can place a dollop on a plate and the sides don’t leak.

5. fill jars to 1/4 inch head space, tap the jars gently on the towel covered counter to get rid of air bubbles. run a plastic knife or chopstick around the inside rim if air bubbles are persistent.

6. hot water bath process for 10 minutes.

tigress’ can jam october: chile pepper success!i couldn’t help myself. i had to do two this month. i mean, i’m a chile cat after all. i love apple butter and i love dried chiles so i thought, why not? as in this pear butter i kept the sugar low. i like a butter that is barely on the sweeter side of sauce – as in an applesauce. you could take it up to 2 whole cups and it still wouldn’t be overly sweet. i added the vinegar because these fallen apples are way past their earlier puckery punch. it was a good choice. the ancho and allspice together add a nice depth. in an odd spoonful here and there i can taste the clean, almost herbal ancho note. i think to catch it in every spoonful, i would up the ancho to 2 whole teaspoons next time.

learning: note to self – next october make 15 pounds of apples’ worth because these 4 & 1/2 pints are going to fly off the larder shelves! quickly!

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